The good folks behind Twitter.com designed a way for us to separate the people we’re following into categories. Once you have created lists and slotted the people you’re following accordingly, you can stop reading tweets as one manic blast of information. Our brains like order. If you’re following more than 100 people, do your mind a favor and get those Twitter lists started soon.
Perhaps right now you’re thinking, but I only follow writers, what kind of categories can I possibly create?
First, let me repeat last month’s advice  to follow a variety of people, which will make your Twitter feed full of more than “tips on characterization!” and “free ebooks!” But even if you insist on a writers-only Twitter experience, you can make lists. How about a list for local writers, one for writers in your genre, debut authors and so on? The key to making lists is that you absolutely cannot put someone in two lists. If the local writer also writes in your genre, you have to pick one category for that person unless you want to see tweets more than once. (Trust me. You don’t.)
HOW TO MAKE LISTS
Please note: Twitter makes changes from time to time. These directions are correct as of 2/10/13.
1. Log onto Twitter. As an example, I will use the Twitter account for Great New Books , a book blog I help run. I did not make lists for the @GreatNewBooks Twitter account until we were following about 300 people. See, it is not too late to get organized!
2. Click on your Twitter name above where it says “view my profile page” in small letters. On the screen that appears next, choose “Lists.”
3. Now look at the center of the page. After you click “Create a List” on the right, the box below will appear.
This is where you start creating categories. On my personal account (@NinaBadzin ) I have categories such as Blog Friends; Parenting Bloggers; Book Bloggers; Twin Cities; Know You in Real Life, and so on. The categories only need to make sense to you. Create the initial categories that come to mind. You can always add more categories or edit the lists later.
Let’s chat about public vs. private lists for a moment. There are benefits to a public list such as helping people find one another and letting others know you’re paying attention to their tweets. The benefit to a private list is that you have 100% privacy if you don’t want people to see your lists. All the lists on my personal account and the ones I created for @GreatNewBooks are public.
Create your lists and hit “save list” each time. Below is the completed list of categories for @GreatNewBooks.
4. After you create categories, you’re ready to slot the people you’re following into lists. Look at the top of the page and click the word “following.” Take note of the square next to each name. Click the first square. From the drop down list that appears, choose “add or remove from lists.”
You should see the names of your previously created categories now. If someone doesn’t fit well into one of your lists, you can create a new list right from there. I use a list called “Getting to Know You” as a temporary spot until a category becomes more evident. As you go down the “following” page, keep adding people to lists. It’s a tedious process the first time you’re getting organized. In the future, any time you follow someone new, or perhaps every few weeks, you can add the newest names to your categories. And remember, only assign people to one category so you’re not seeing the same tweets twice.
5. Lists will save your sanity. When I’m curious about what the other book bloggers are saying, I read the tweets on that list. When I want to see tweets from the authors we’ve featured on Great New Books, I can easily see those tweets in one column. Twitter does not feel noisy and overwhelming to me, and I attribute that to my use of lists.
And now for some Writer Unboxed NEWS . . .
I am excited to announce that Annie Neugebauer , a novelist, short-story writer, and an award-winning poet, will be the next Twitter addict, I mean Twitter guru, to lead the Writer Unboxed community through the wild world of Twitter. Annie will take over the column, bringing you a fresh perspective. I think it’s important to acknowledge that social media is more of an art than a science. We need more than one voice discussing what works “best.” I hope that my posts  have helped Writer Unboxed readers use Twitter more effectively. I have certainly told you all that I know and had a great time discussing Twitter etiquette and tools with all of you. Annie’s tips will continue the conversation of how writers can make Twitter work well for their careers. I will be taking notes for sure!